Community crisis: 55 suspects escape from Police custody in Ebonyi

IGP Mohammed Adamu

About 55 out of the 66 suspects arrested on Saturday afternoon at one of the flash points in Effium community, Ohaukwu Local Government Area (LGA) of Ebonyi state by a combined team of Police and Army have reportedly escaped from custody.

Blueprint gathered that their arrest was in connection to the lingering communal war between Effium and Ezza Effium community in Ohaukwu LGA. 

The suspected warlords were said to have been arrested at Okpuduma village of the community with arms and charms during the raid of the area by General Commander, 82 Division of the Nigeria Army, Maj. Gen. Taoreen Lagbaja.

Lagbaja who was in Ebonyi state on operational visit to the community caught up in persistent killings, shootings and burning of houses was accompanied by other top army officers, the state Commissioner of Police, Aliyu Garba, and his special team, the state Deputy Governor Dr. Kelechi Igwe, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha, among other government officials.

The visiting team facilitated the arrest of the suspected warlords who were seen in the deserted village.

Guns, live cartridges and charms were spotted and recovered at one of their hideouts when they were rounded up by security agents during a search at the area.

After the arrest of the suspects and recovery of the arms and charms, the GOC and the team proceeded to Nwekendiagu village in the community for same operation while the suspects were handed over to the police by the GOC for movement to police headquarter, Abakaliki for further investigation.

But immediately the team left the community, information filtered in that 55 out the 66 suspects have escaped from the custody while their whereabouts have remained unknown.

Speaking on the escape of the suspects, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Chief Stanley Emegha, described it as a sabotage on the part of security agencies.

He accused the security agents who were handed over the suspects of aiding their escape and threatened that the government would be forced to use the state vigilante to end the persistent hostilities in the community.

“Our visit today was a major breakthrough by arresting those people but very unfortunate that out of the 66, security agencies that were saddled with the responsibility of guarding those people to Abakaliki compromised, as we moved, they released them and the Governor through the Deputy Governor has demanded for an explanation from the CP and the Commanding Officer.

“The Commissioner of Police was there, he saw them. It was my insistence that those people must be arrested, that these are the warriors and they shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the community. So, it is compromise on the part of the security. The reason why we have been having this problem in Effium is because the security has compromised.

“What happened this afternoon is very clear to every body that they have compromised,” he said.

Earlier, GOC 82 Division, Maj.Gen. Lagabaja, said he was in the community to stop the hostilities.

When contacted, the state CP, Garba dismissed the claim that there was compromise on the part of the police. 

He acknowledged that the aressted 66 suspects were no longer complete but refused to comment further on their escape.

The people of Effium and Ezza Effium have been at war since February this year with over 100 persons including pregnant women and babies killed and many properties burnt to ashes by warlods.

On Thursday this week, Governor Dave Umahi visited the community for the second time following the persistent hostilities but shooting on that day, forced him out of the community.

Following this, the governor declared dusk to dawn curfew in the community with 150 soldiers and 120 moblie Policemen deployed to the area to back up the security in the community to prevent further hostility in the trouble community.

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